Microsoft, the FBI and members of the financial services industry said they have disrupted more than a thousand botnets that are responsible for stealing people’s online banking information and personal identities.
The coordinated disruption resulted from an investigation that Microsoft and its financial services and technology industry partners strarted in early 2012 to a malware, known as Citadel.
Microsoft found that the Citadel malware has affected upwards of five million people, with some of the highest number of infections appearing in the US, Europe, Hong Kong, Singapore, India, and Australia.
Citadel was reportedly responsible for over $500m in losses among people and businesses worldwide.
Microsoft general counsel and executive vice president of legal and corporate affairs Brad Smith said the harm done by Citadel shows the threat that botnets, malicious software, and piracy pose to individuals and businesses around the world.
"Today’s coordinated action between the private sector and law enforcement demonstrates the power of combined legal and technical expertise and we’re going to continue to work together to help put these cybercriminals out of business," Smith said.
FBI executive assistant director Richard McFeely said: "Today’s actions represent the future of addressing the significant risks posed to our citizens, businesses, and intellectual property by cyber threats and malicious software, which are often enabled by counterfeit and unlicensed software."
Microsoft has filed a civil suit against cybercriminals operating the botnet scheme, and received the approval of the US District Court for the Western District of North Carolina to cut off communication between 1,462 Citadel botnets and infected computers under their control.